ARCHIVED: Joint Library Statement on WIPO Negotiations

  • Bookmark and Share


December 23, 1996

American Association of Law Libraries
American Library Association
Association of Research Libraries
Medical Library Association
Special Libraries Association


Washington, D.C. -- As the global information age dawns, it appears that both copyright proprietors and those who use copyrighted materials can be accommodated in the digital information environment. This was the preliminary conclusion reached by five national library associations at the conclusion on December 20 of more than two weeks of international negotiations convened by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva.

The library associations noted that the 160 governments represented at the diplomatic conference on intellectual property issues, including the U.S. Administration, were able to accommodate a variety of public and private interests. The treaties finally approved in Geneva represent significant progress, when compared with earlier proposals, in balancing the legitimate interests of copyright proprietors with the users of copyrighted materials toward the goal of developing and spreading knowledge.

Adam Eisgrau, legislative counsel for the American Library Association Washington Office, who was a representative in Geneva of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, found "particularly noteworthy the consensus of the diplomatic conference in favor of extension and evolution into the digital environment of limits on copyright, including fair use."

The library groups indicated that many participants in the negotiations expressed deep opposition to a treaty for a broad new system of protection for databases, in addition to copyright. Although such a treaty had been proposed, it was not acted upon. The five library associations had earlier opposed this proposal as being overbroad and because the concept had not been subjected to domestic scrutiny in the U.S.

The library community worked with many other interests and organizations to ensure a balanced process and outcome in the treaty negotiations, including scholarly, scientific and research societies, education organizations, public interest groups, and online service providers and telecommunications and high tech industries.

Like many treaties, the Geneva agreements impose broadly phrased obligations on signatory nations. Accordingly, in many countries, including the U.S., the treaties will require domestic approval and legislative implementation. The library associations are engaged in further analyses of the language of the Geneva agreements, and stand ready to continue to work with the Administration, Congress and other interested parties.